TOP
Wednesday,August 12,2020 10:23 AM
  • Home
  • Health
  • Back from the dead: one man’s fight against TB

Back from the dead: one man’s fight against TB

By Vision Reporter

Added 23rd March 2008 03:00 AM

MY first suspicion of trouble was the discovery that I could no longer smoke a full cigarette without choking and that climbing stairs was proving a nightmare. I was also sweating heavily at night, a worrying sign, but I avoided a check-up.

MY first suspicion of trouble was the discovery that I could no longer smoke a full cigarette without choking and that climbing stairs was proving a nightmare. I was also sweating heavily at night, a worrying sign, but I avoided a check-up.

By Tony Geoffrey Owana

MY first suspicion of trouble was the discovery that I could no longer smoke a full cigarette without choking and that climbing stairs was proving a nightmare. I was also sweating heavily at night, a worrying sign, but I avoided a check-up.

After months of resistance to reason, I succumbed to my wife Victoria’s pleas and went to Mulago Hospital where I found out that I had Tuberculosis (TB), that was slowly but surely killing me.
On September 14 2004, I consulted Dr. Myers Lugemwa.

He did not show any indication that he was examining a nearly hopeless case. We talked as though discussing the weather and not the hours that remained before my burial.

TB is a sad reality for many in Uganda. According to the health ministry, there are 500,000 TB cases in the country and 80,000 new infections every year.

TB is a highly infectious disease that is spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks or spits and propels TB germs in the air, which are inhaled by an un-infected person.

The German Scientist Robert Koch who discovered the TB germ said: “If the importance of a disease is measured by the number of fatalities it causes, then TB must be considered much more important than those most feared diseases, plague, and cholera.

One in seven people dies from TB and if one only considers the productive middle-age groups, TB carries away one-third.”

Knowing the seriousness of the disease, I was praying that the sputum and blood tests done at Mulago would not confirm that I had TB. I even submitted saliva instead of real sputum and was foolishly happy when the test detected no TB.

But Dr. Lugemwa disclosed that in addition to pneumonia, one of my lungs was damaged while the other one had a swelling, which was the result of a motorcycle accident I had ignored.

I clearly remember the shock with which the female radiologist viewed me and the X-ray image she had taken. Later, another doctor diagnosed the image and wrote out my fate on three pages. He could also not resist periodically wincing and expressing amazement at what he was seeing.

The doctor did not explain to me what was distressing him in the images he was looking at, but I would know soon enough.

On December 27, I rushed to Dr. Lugemwa who ordered another sputum test. Seeing my condition, he counselled me over a risk we agreed to take concerning treatment. While still waiting for the sputum test results, he put me on anti-TB drugs and TB was confirmed on December 31 2004.

That was the beginning of nearly a year of swallowing kilograms of drugs. In the course of treatment, I was spending sh 6,000 on drugs and sh10,000 on a special diet every week. It was not easy because I was not earning that money but was just spending it.

Once diagnosed with TB I struggled to hide it in vain. My cough increased and on occasions, I would find my mouth full of a salty substance— my own blood!
I vividly recall workmates watching my slow death from the corners of their eyes.

A colleague frequently bought me ripe mangoes, as though laying wreaths in advance. In office, I was ‘sitting in state’ but I was sure I would ‘lie in state’ soon.
It was during Christmas week that I came closest to death.

I was coughing up pieces of what remained of my lungs into a bucket of wood ash. I remember emptying that bucket into the latrine with the feeling that I was attending my burial, in, of all places, a latrine!

My wife Victoria was strong but my girls Irene, Ronah and Peragia must have agonised over being orphaned by a father leaving only debts as his legacy. My son, Herman and brother Lincoln, daily awaited the funeral announcements.

During this time I had the opportunity to put my previous lifestyle in perspective. I realised that at the peak of my drinking days, I was drinking at least half a litre of Kasese gin per day, punctuated with at least ten cigarettes.

That averaged sh 3,000 per day on myself alone, yet this is money I could have spent on my family .My illness also made me realise just how strong my wife was and I believe it is by God’s grace that she stood by me.

One of the biggest miracles that came out of my battle with TB is that I stopped drinking alcohol and
smoking.

Dr. Lugemwa had advised that if I quit my beloved tobacco I stood a big chance of recovery. He doubted whether I would abide by his warning to abandon alcohol, without which his treatment would have had no effect He knew of my undying love for locally distilled gin but he tried.

Amazingly, since 2004, I have not smoked or drunk alcohol. I did not experience any of the effects that normally occur when one suddenly stops drinking or smoking.

In addition, I accepted Jesus Christ as the saviour of my soul and body.
I believe Jesus Christ and Myers Lugemwa combined forces to bail me out of the grave and gave me a new lease on life.

What are the symptoms of TB?
Persistent cough that lasts more than three weeks. The cough usually produces blood-stained sputum especially at advanced stages of the disease

Chest pain, loss of appetite, shortness of breath and weight loss

Fever, feeling weak and sweating at night

What to do in case of TB
Go for medical check up.
If you turn out positive, you will receive free treatment. TB is curable

Remember to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze so as not to spread the infection.

Get plenty of rest and eat healthy food.

Take the TB drugs as prescribed.
lDo not stop the treatment even if you are feeling better. If you stop before completing the treatment, the TB bacteria become resistant to the drugs.

Compiled by Jamesa Wagwau

Back from the dead: one man’s fight against TB

Related articles

More From The Author

More From The Author